The Case of the Low Blood Sugar
Sugar sleuthing, continued.
By Ilene Raymond Rush
June 2011 — It had been a very long time between low blood sugars for me.
So long that when I suddenly began to feel chilled and shaky while seated on the outside veranda of my favorite Greek restaurant, I didn't quite recognize that my symptoms were connected to my blood sugar.
You know the signs: The gradual drifting away of my attention from my friend's chatter about her dissertation, a syrupy weakness in my legs, a sense that I needed to collapse on the bench beside me right then. Yet thinking that I might simply be cold on the brisk spring night, I ordered a cup of coffee. Not until my teeth started to chatter did I suspect that I might have something more serious on my hands.
It was when I was behind the wheel of my car, backing up in the parking lot with a plan to make a beeline home (luckily only five minutes away), did it fully dawn on me that it was a low blood sugar issue. Home with my glucose monitor, a quick pinprick of blood showed I was right — my reading had sunk to a debilitating 48.
Two glucose tabs and a few bites of chocolate later, I felt much, much better.
That night, like some amateur gumshoe, I sat in bed and retraced my day, trying to pinpoint the cause of the fall. I had exercised and eaten very few carbs, as I do everyday. I had been under a bit more stress at work and had a few extra personal worries, and I had quickly downed a glass of dry red wine in the first few minutes after taking my before-dinner meds. But all things being equal, none of that should have led me to such an absurdly low blood sugar reading.
My conclusion? Unfortunately, in this case, there was no Colonel Mustard in the Library with a candlestick. At the end of my sleuthing, I still didn't know why my numbers dropped so low.
The Case of the Low Blood Sugar was once again going to remain unsolved. Stymied for the moment, I decided that rather than trace my footsteps backwards I'd work things forward. What might I do differently next time?
In bed, I worked up a mental list: Eat something before I downed that wine; be a little less strict on the carb intake; insist that we eat a little earlier instead of waiting to eat fashionably late; tell the waitress to hurry our entrees because I was hungry; carry my blood glucose machine with me, rather than assuming I'd be okay; ditto on the glucose tablets; inform my friend honestly that I was feeling light-headed and woozy and had to leave, before it dropped so low.
What makes this disease so challenging is a need for constant vigilance against a backdrop of ever-present metabolic mysteries. And despite knowing this and having diabetes as my constant companion for over twenty years, it's still possible to become occasionally complacent. But here's the thing about this perpetrator — it doesn't forget you.
Once again, I'm going to remind myself to remember that.
dLife's Viewpoints columnists are not all medical experts, but everyday people living with diabetes and sharing their personal experiences, most often at a set point in time. While their method of diabetes management may work for them, everyone is different. Please consult with your diabetes care team before acting on anything you read here to find out what will work best for you.
I have a friend, M, who has diabetes and never, ever tests her bloodsugar before she gets behind the wheel. This has always worried me about her. On Wednesday, she had a bad accident after passing out behind the wheel. She hit another car head on. I thank the universe that no one was killed, but she and the driver of the other vehicle were both badly injured. She's got a long healing road ahead of her, as does the woman she hit. I was talking about the...